Archive for the 'action' Category

Kane and Lynch: Dead Men

May 11, 2008

Do you like clichés? If so, then we have the demo for you. Kane and Lynch ticks the standard third-person shooter boxes; it has a standard loadout of guns and grenades, a cover system, AI team mates, regenerating health, and waves of generic enemies to gun down. The four combat scenes are based on a Heat-esque assassination mission, and are scattered with pillars that fly apart Matrix-style under fire. However, the game shows some sophistication between the swear words, even if the demo doesn’t allow time for it to develop: rappelling down a skyscraper neatly foreshadows the gun battle in the street below, and the characters at least have a hint of originality – putting a bald spot on the player character in a third-person shooter is a brave idea, and getting mortally wounded brings your character’s subconscious to the surface for a few seconds and lets you hear their inner turmoil. If you do get brought down, your teammates will revive you with a shot of adrenaline, and only dying repeatedly will overdose you and end the level. However, those team mates will gun you down if you’re not careful, and the enemies will also often behave oddly – failing to react to being flanked or set on fire. There were even several full-on animation glitches, overly re-used character models, and the controls and cover system are flaky. Despite all this there’s some fun to be had here, getting your team together and charging through gets the adrenaline going, and leaving them behind and beating the level solo using only your pistol gives the game some challenge (needed, as there’s no selectable difficulty, and it’s pretty easy). The demo also offers split-screen co-op, but it requires an Xbox 360 controller – my Dualshock 2 with a USB adaptor doesn’t work – so I wasn’t able to test it.

This demo is basically nothing special, and has some problems with the controls. If you have the kit and the companion required for co-op it’s probably worth a go, otherwise only fans of third-person shooters or cinematic pretension should bother.

1/3 – For fans only

Tech details:

Size: 600 MB

System Requirements: 2 GHz CPU, 1 GB RAM, 128 MB GeForce 6600/ATi X1300, Windows XP/Vista, Xbox 360 controller for co-op

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Bad Day LA

August 16, 2006

What if all the media scaremongering about disasters and terrorism came true? This is the premise of Bad Day LA, the story of one man caught up in a string of natural and man-made disasters. A half-insane, homeless man at that. The protagonist of Bad Day LA has more character than a dozen generic videogame heroes, and the demo is slick and funny, mixing political humour with crazy characters and some gory slapstick. The demo is sadly short, just one level with some tutorial elements and a handful of mission objectives. In the demo level terrorists have crashed planes loaded with zombifying bioweapons into LA, causing chaos. Your tour through the wreckage includes healing injured people (most memorably by jumping up and down on the chest of a heart attack victim), putting out flaming pedestrians with your fire extinguisher, using the extinguisher to dezombify people by blowing away the clouds of toxic gas, shooting terrorists, zombies (if you don’t fancy saving them) and crazed dogs, and escorting a conveniently immortal sick little boy. Varied, well executed and fun (aside from the invisible walls), but ends much to soon.

Score: 1/3 – For fans only

Tech Details:

Size: 270MB

System Requirements: 1.6GHz CPU, 512MB RAM, 64MB DirectX9 video card (Radeon 8500/GF 5200 or higher), Windows 2000/XP, 1024×768 screen resolution

Dark Messiah of Might and Magic

August 11, 2006

Dark Messiah of Might and Magic is a first-person action RPG. Its defining features are the physics-heavy combat, slick swordplay system, impressive graphics and a skill tree which enables specialisation in either swordplay, archery, magic or stealth.

The demo is extremely brief, consisting of two short levels, a tutorial and the first half of a level from later in the game. The tutorial does a good job of introducing the interactions and combat, but aside from the final fight there’s nothing you’ll want to replay. The level is more interesting, you are granted more abilities at the start and have the option to play it as a mage, fight through as a warrior, or upgrade your stealth skills and sneak past. You’ll want to try all three, and probably more than once each since the chaotic battles play out differently every time. Sneaking is pretty disappointing; you have a light meter à la the Thief series, but the short and linear map means you can just lean on your sprint key to run past your enemies with no actual stealth required. They do a fairly good job of chasing you, following you outside their spawn areas and down some stairs, but the level ends before they have any chance to corner you. Combat is a lot more entertaining, the elaborate swordplay system (swipes, blocks, kicks, power strikes, backstabs, special moves and an adrenaline bar) alone is a step up over the standard mêlée system in a first-person game, but what really makes the game is all the environmental hazards to kick your opponents into – off cliffs, down stairs or into fires or spikes – and the other potential traps like ropes to cut which will bring deadly weights swinging down. In fact, this is a little too powerful, as there’s nothing to stop you blocking the first few hits until your enemy is lined up, then a swift kick or two will bring on instant death. Going for similarly powerful moves with the sword leaves you open for a second and is a much more dangerous tactic. The bow likewise looks weak next to the boot in combat, but it is very useful for taking out enemies by triggering traps from a safe distance.

Magic also offers plenty of opportunities for mayhem. The basic fireball spell is not much more useful than the arrows, although it can be guided after firing for better accuracy. The other two spells in the demo (aside from the night vision spell) are very powerful; “fire trap” allows you to plant an invisible and deadly mine which will destroy any enemy that wanders past, whilst “freeze” allows you to freeze an enemy solid allowing you to shatter them, or, if pointed at the floor, will produce an ice patch that can send enemies skidding to their death. Unfortunately, all of this comes to an end very quickly, the demo cuts out after a couple of duels and a final brawl, leaving you with a teaser of the level boss and a real lack of closure.

Aside from the 1.4GB download (2.4GB installed size), Dark Messiah is pretty hard on your PC. The load times are enough to make me reach for my DS and put in a lap of Mario Kart, and even on minimum detail the framerate regularly loses smoothness – although not to the point of unplayability, as the game isn’t that fast paced. What’s worst is an occasional hitch that freezes the game for a minute or so that occurs on roughly every other playthrough. This might not be indicative of your experience, as the review was done on an (offically unsupported) Windows 2000 machine, but you should certainly take the minimum requirements listed below pretty seriously. In fact, I’d say that if you have a lower-end GeForce FX you want to give this one a miss.

A great experience while it lasts, but its brevity and technical problems mean it can’t really be recommended to anyone without a lot of bandwidth and a heavy-duty gaming PC. Pixel shader fans only.

Score: 1/3 – For fans only

Tech details:

Size: 1.4GB

System Requirements: 2.2 GHz CPU, 512MB RAM, 128MB GeForce FX/6/7 or Radeon 9/X series DirectX9 Video Card, 1024×768 or higher resolution, Windows XP

Lego Star Wars 2

August 9, 2006

This time Lego Star Wars takes on the original trilogy, with the demo taking you through the outskirts of Mos Eisley and the cantina. The poor camera and loose controls make the combat frustrating, but never deeply so as you have infinite lives, and the puzzles are very simple. Most of the fun comes from collecting items and unlocking new characters for the free play mode, and the humorous retelling of the Star Wars story. For fans only – but almost everyone’s a fan of Star Wars.

Score: 1/3 – For fans only

Tech details:

Size: 437MB

System Requirements: 1GHz CPU, 256 MB RAM, 32MB video card with v1.1 shaders, Windows 2000/XP

Gamepad recommended